Money from a supermarket, or blood from a stone?

I received this email text today, it contains an intriguing idea, that seems almost too good to be true. A way of getting supermarkets to put something back into the communities from which they get so much!

I am contacting you to ask for your help regarding a new idea that would bring your Council more money.

The idea is based on legislation passed last year by the Northern Ireland Parliament to add a new levy on large supermarkets of 8.5% based on their current rateable value. Last year the Scottish Parliament passed similar legislation for a levy of 9.3%.

The idea is for English local authorities to be given the power to introduce a similar levy in their areas and to collect the revenue and spend it in ways they think would help local communities.

Evidence shows that the revenue from this levy has helped local businesses and communities in Northern Ireland and public services in Scotland.

Furthermore the concerns about this levy are unfounded: the British Retail Consortium have specifically said that the levy will not be passed on to customers, inward investment has increased in Northern Ireland and there would be a positive effect on employment.

Specifically, the proposal is:
“That the Secretary of State a) gives Local Authorities the power to introduce a local levy of 8.5% of the rate on large retail outlets in their area with a rateable annual value not less that £500,000; and b) requires that the revenue from this levy go directly to the Local Authority in order to be used to improve local communities in their areas by promoting local economic activity, local services and facilities, social and community wellbeing and environmental protection.”

The evidence for this and more is in the updated proposal here.

To date, 63 councils (of all party leaderships) have expressed serious interest in submitting this idea as a proposal under the Sustainable Communities Act. I very much hope that your council would be interested in joining them. We think this proposal now has a real chance of success and want to work with councils to help achieve it.

Could you please put forward a motion for your next Council meeting resolving to submit this proposal under the Sustainable Communities Act? Further below is a suggest version for convenience.

Please keep me informed of any progress on this matter. Please contact me if can provide any assistance with this. My contact details are directly below.

Kind regards
Steve Shaw
National Co-ordinator
Local Works – helping councils use the Sustainable Communities Act
office: 020 7278 4443 direct: 020 7239 9053 mobile: 07788 646 933website: http://www.localworks.org

SAMPLE MOTION
notes the request from ‘Local Works’ to consider submitting the following proposal to the government under the Sustainable Communities Act:
‘That the Secretary of State gives Local Authorities the power to introduce a local levy of 8.5% of the rate on large retail outlets in their area with a rateable annual value not less that £500,000 and requires that the revenue from this levy be retained by the Local Authority in order to be used to improve local communities in their areas by promoting local economic activity, local services and facilities, social and community wellbeing and environmental protection.’
The Council notes that if this power was acquired it would present the opportunity to raise further revenue for the benefit of local communities, should the Council wish to use it.
The Council resolves to submit the proposal to the government under the Sustainable Communities Act and to work together with Local Works to gain support for the proposal from other councils in the region and across the country.

Self service or ‘manned’ checkout sir/madam?

A recent newspaper report, apparently, suggests that the British public dislike the self-service checkouts that have now appeared in virtually all of the big 4’s stores. However, the supermarkets seem hellbent of introducing more and more of these things, despite this sort of feedback and the distrust of their own staff, who see this as yet another way for the management to cut jobs.

Just like extending Sunday trading hours, out of town supermarkets and just about all the other retrograde steps the supermarkets have managed to impose upon us, the supermarkets are quick to tell us, ‘it’s what the public tell us they want’.

In the case of self service checkouts, our local Sainsbury’s is ensuring that customer behaviour supports the company view, by manipulating checkout provision in the store, how? Location, location, location, as the estate agents say.

When I visited the store this afternoon, there were only 4 manned checkouts open, so of course lots of people were using the self service checkouts. However, in order to make doubly sure customers gravitated towards self service, 3 of the 4 mannered checkouts, we’re at the far end of the checkout row, thereby ensuring that people went for the closer option.

Supermarkets are true masters of behaviour manipulation when it comes to making the public perform in the way they want us to, by product location, use of music and in some cases, clever lighting. This seems to be yet another example of this cynical behaviour.

Supermarkets everywhere, all of the time – the future?

Following on from the previous entry about Justin King of Sainsbury and his, ‘don’t blame us’ statement, let’s not forget that he and his cohort are working tirelessly behind the scenes, lobbying government ministers, to gain even wider opening hours for all large retail outlets. Not only are they demanding the scrapping of our Sunday trading laws, they also want to see the last two non-shopping days of the year, Easter Sunday and Christmas Day, become business as usual.

Just as with all the other boundaries that have been broken down by the heavyweights in the supermarket world, the reason they give for pushing for these changes, is not because they want to screw the last penny out of the buying public, but because we, the British public, want them.

Of course we, the British public, probably don’t yet know we want them, that explanation will come when people realise what has happened and start protesting about yet another step towards a 24/7 society. The supermarkets will then leap on to their high horses, telling us that it’s what we want and that they are just responding to public demand!

Supermarkets everywhere, all of the time – the future?

Following on from the previous entry about Justin King of Sainsbury and his, ‘don’t blame us’ statement, let’s not forget that he and his cohort are working tirelessly behind the scenes, lobbying government ministers, to gain even wider opening hours for all large retail outlets. Not only are they demanding the scrapping of our Sunday trading laws, they also want to see the last two non-shopping days of the year, Easter Sunday and Christmas Day, become business as usual.

Just as with all the other boundaries that have been broken down by the heavyweights in the supermarket world, the reason they give for pushing for these changes, is not because they want to screw the last penny out of the buying public, but because we, the British public, want them.

Of course we, the British public, probably don’t yet know we want them, that explanation will come when people realise what has happened and start protesting about yet another step towards a 24/7 society. The supermarkets will then leap on to their high horses, telling us that it’s what we want and that they are just responding to public demand!

Sainsbury’s Justin King – It’s not fair, it’s not our fault!

The top dog at Sainsbury claims that high street shops have brought about their own demise and that it is nothing to do with the supermarkets he and his mates in the business have infested our towns and cities with. Is he just been funny or bullish, or does he really believe what he’s saying?

It might of been just possible to see the supermarkets as mounting fair competition to other food stuff providers when they were of a town centre scale and location. However, as soon as they decided to seek green field sites, away from centres of population, followed by selling an ever increasing range of non-food goods, it was no longer the case. The purchasing muscle deployed by supermarkets, combined with a ruthless and cut throat approach to pricing from their suppliers, means that the small independent retailer, of the standard fare, has no hope of competing.

If Mr King really believes that town centre shops are not falling victim to his brand of business, then he, along with all the other supermarket bosses, should be doing something to support and
encourage them, instead of trampling them under foot. Nor should he suggest that they can afford to run loyalty schemes, ala Nectar points, that will cut even further in to already threadbare profit margins.

Why don’t the supermarkets set up an investment fund that buys up blocks of town centre shops in areas that are struggling. They could then offer these premises to startup businesses that were either non-existent, or poorly represented in that high street, at a peppercorn rent. Only when the numbers started to add up, would the rent begin to increase and then at a very modest rate. Taxpayers would also do their bit by giving business rates relief for the same period. Even if the shop never became particularly profitable, as long it was providing a valuable service and adding colour and variety to its town centre, it would be supported. A pipe dream I know and something the voracious share holders of the big 4 would probably never wear, but one
Iives in hope.